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My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Friday, August 5

It's raining, it's pouring, the old man is snoring

Bumped his head and went to bed and couldn't get up in the morning.

My mom used to sing that to me when I was a kid. My grandpa would too, so I would always imagine this sort of bald guy like him snoring away in bed... I didn't put much thought into the part about him not getting up.

Many children's songs and rhymes are pretty twisted. Often they start out innocent enough but then they end with something awful. The cradle falls from a tree (with the baby in it!), the old woman in the shoe spanks all her children (as if her having too many kids was THEIR fault), Humpty Dumpty has a great fall, so does London Bridge, you know what happen to Jack & Jill... Oh, and that sweet sounding "Ring around the Rosy" is apparently something that came from the Bubonic Plague - "Ashes, ashes, we all fall down" *shudder* And people worry about the influence of TV! (Don't even get me started on fairytales). Not that I have a problem with children choosing to read or have their parents read such things to them. If you've got a 2 year old who is just getting the hang of talking and no as-yet-established preferences, however, it seems sensible to pick ones with more light-hearted themes - or at least less violent/traumatic.

I think nursery rhymes are probably worse than violent adult movies and games because the violence/harm is spoken about in an almost whimsical way alongside something funny or sweet - as if they were the same kind of thing.

Then again, I think sometimes humor about these things can be a way of helping children feel more powerful. If they can laugh a little about something scary, then they realize that even when things get scary, there are ways to deal with it and one can overcome one's fears to an extent.

I remember my father(step) having bizarre reactions to shows. He seemed to find some of the most violent movies hilarious. This is because there's usually some joking and plays on words. They didn't use to have such devices. At least, they weren't as frequent. I remember reading and seeing The Shining when I was 8 (I read it before I saw it just because I happened to get ahold of the book before the movie was aired on cable - my parents did NOT try to torture me by making me read the book first - more on the problem with that idea later). The first half of the book was long and a bit boring. Lots of little background details and notes and very little dramatic action. If I hadn't been very determined to make it my first novel length read, I wouldn't have made it trhough.

I was rewarded for my determination. The detailing in the first half really enriched one's experience of reading the fast paced 2nd half. The tone of the book overall was quite serious and frightening and moving. I was pretty disappointed in the movie, comparatively, although I still found it quite frightening. I don't think the movie was badly made, I think it's just hard to get certain ideas across in a movie. Jack Nicholson did a nice job of adding little bits of humor without taking away from the seriousness of the story too much. Even with that, I think I would have been too frightened to laugh much if it hadn't been for my dad. Hearing him laugh helped me remember it was "just a movie". For the record, the book and movie were my choice to watch. I wanted to be scared and get through it anyway.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to post a comment on this one. Kids don't understand the nursery rhymes until they are well and capable of coping with what they talk about. You said yourself that you never thought about the old man getting up? (my parents also sang this one to me a lot). I remember finding out about all this stuff much later. I think I had already learned about the holocaust by that time. I really do not know exactly how this compares with television and movies these days. I assume that TV will allow children to automatically grasp when someone dies a horrible death, or as such forth, but does it make as much of an impression? I wouldn't think an action film would. A horror film, probably, they focus on the pain and suffering more. An action film, I think glosses over a lot. I would think a young child would be indifferent to a man being shot on such a film. Then again, I ran out crying when Bambi's mother got shot.
~ Jon

Becky said...

Good point. I didn't really "notice" what was being said as a kid. I think what I was trying to say, though, is that in itself could be a problem. Lots of bad things being talked about as if they were all happy fun topics. I think an action movie would do the same kind of thing, as you point out. A horror film would be dwelling on the emotions and fear and suffering. I remember being very upset about Bambi's mother being shot too.

Anonymous said...


Hmmm. fairy tales - we have the original Grimm stories, and a bunch of children's versions. The kids (5,3 and a little one) like both, attach the same amount of weight to either - i.e. it's a story.

Also, TV and more modern content tends to reinforce death as a scary and terrible event, rather than something natural. I read something recently which pointed out that part of a happy and successful marriage/relationship is bereavement (for one party anyway) - not a common view, but maybe a healthier one? (It's was CS Lewis' "A Grief Observed" ,btw).

The original Cinderella has the ugly sisters mutilating their feet (one cutting off toes, the other heels) to fit in the shoe (the blood was the giveaway), and their eyes pecked by birds at the end. But it's a better story, and the kids quite liked it, didn't dwell on the darker parts.

We skipped the one where the murderer was sewn into a bag and drowned in a pond though - nightmare potential...

(must ramble less).